The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mahajan offers telecom pep pill

New Delhi, Nov. 26: Communications minister Pramod Mahajan chose the platform of the World Economic Forum to say today what the telecom and infotech sectors had been wanting to hear all along—that the government had finally decided to lower revenue share and spectrum charges.

Mahajan said the government plans to reduce the current revenue share of 12. 10 and 8 per cent respectively, for the category A, B and C cellular circles, to a uniform 8 per cent. More significantly, he said that “today the three levies are much more than the international level of 3 to 4 per cent. We will work on a roadmap to bring it down from about 10-12 per cent now in the next two to three years.”

Mahajan, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Summit 2002 organised by the CII, said the finance ministry had already agreed “in principle” to the proposal and formal discussions on the issue would start after the ongoing session of Parliament.

“Many telecom companies world-wide are facing a crisis. And we do not want Indian companies to go the same way,” Mahajan said, adding his department was currently calculating the financial implications of the proposal.

The government has also decided to lay special emphasis on electronic courts and has set up a committee under Justice V. N. Khare. The committee will submit a report in six to eight months suggesting the use of IT to reduce the pressure on courts and speedy clearance of cases.

Elaborating on the proposal to set up an electronic single window clearance the minister said, “The scheme will be developed by a national mission with the Cabinet secretary or communications minister along with vice-chairman Sam Pitroda. It will also have participation from the finance ministry and industry chambers like the CII, Ficci and Assocham. We will finalise the composition of the committee by this week.”

In order to improve village public telephone systems, Mahajan also proposed the introduction of ‘party lines’ in villages which could go a long way in expanding the reach of telecommunications in rural areas.

This system allocates a single line to one person in the village and five additional connections are given from the same line. A pilot project in Tamil Nadu has been implemented in association with IIT Chennai and is likely to be implemented in a few other states.

Convergence Bill

The Convergence Bill has run into rough weather with the government deciding to send it back to the Cabinet with major changes as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Convergence questions the need for such a Bill.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Convergence has tossed it back to the government with major changes, prompting the latter to take a fresh look at the Bill. It is likely to be sent to its original authors for incorporating the changes.

“The standing committee that was to examine the Convergence Bill has given it back with suggestions,” Mahajan said.

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